An Interview with J. Michael Bradley, FinTech Executive and EBCoin Advisor
1.Q: What got you interested in EBCoin?
A great business plan for a $60B market supported by some of the hardest working, most knowledgeable and honest people in the cross-border payments industry.
Look, duty free shopping and tax refund shoppingis a BIG DEAL in Asia, especially with the massive Chinese consumer market. These same dynamics apply to the Middle East and Europe –and to a much lesser degree in the US. The EBCoin team deeply understands the inefficiencies with cross-border commerce, tax refunds and duty free shopping ecosystems. EBCoin is not a solution looking for a problem. This team has identified a problem — has lived with the problem for 10 years every day — and has identified the benefits which cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technologies through the Ethereum protocol can bring to this $60B industry.
2.Q: What do you think of token offerings (ICOs) — is a token sale the right option for EBCoin?
Well, to be honest, many in the industry are growing wary of ICOs. More accurately, new projects are funding through Token Sales, an updated approach to the traditional ICO. Too many ICOs in the past have had weak business plans, backed by inexperienced teams and a lack of real, tangible objectives.
However, I am firm believer that the “smart” money eventually finds the “smart” companies and the pretenders drop out. The EBCoin token sale offers the opportunity to participate in a real world solution to a real world problem, and offers tremendous upside. I’m really bullish on the prospects!
3.Q: What’s the recipe for a successful token sale event?
Well, here are a few observations and what I’ve learned from numerous smart people:
1. Set a realistic Hard Cap, which should be a combination of revenues generated through a token event as well as traditional methods of growth financing.
2. Establish a Soft Cap which includes both pre-sale and main token sale events.
3. Ensure your ICO and the underlying business strategy distinguishes between a unit or store of value and a permission token
4. Develop a whitepaper outlining your project and business that is nothing short of the best work of your life. Support it with a demo or some sort of live action to bring your concept to life.
5. Build a great community around your ICO. Partners, advisors, institutional investors and developers.
This last one is the most difficult for many as it goes against the very grain of the merit based, techno-cratic core of the founding chain communities. There is a very limited supply of institutional investors, advisors, community luminaries, etc. The need to build a “world class” team seemingly leads to inefficiencies that token offerings were designed to address. We don’t want a system which is completely dependent upon the blessing of star advisors or the creation of investor cabals.
4.Q: Are cryptocurrencies for real? Do you believe that the crypto market is in a “tulip mania”?
Cryptocurrencies are for real. They solve a lot of problems and constraints that fiat currencies and those fiat monetary systems impose on everyday global citizens. I believe in cryptocurrencies for the present and the future. I believe the underlying blockchain technologies will be as revolutionary as the web languages and email protocols became for the internet.
Is there some speculation and hype? Of course, but the amount invested in cryptomarkets and at “play” is so limited and niche that any crash in the crypto market world would shake the confidence of a microscopic world relative to the crushing. Ubiquitous impacts on global financial institutions impart every decade or so on us, after whatever version of “tulip markets” they engage in.
Second, what determines a market? A buyer, a seller and faith; faith in an equity position and the management team of that company. Faith that a shiny yellow medal is worth something to others. Faith in a system which tells me a commodity which I never touch is owned by me. So why not have faith in the value of an electronic store of value? One, by the way, which can’t be manipulated, or mined out of the ground for more, or printed off a press.
Crypto is here to stay; it may be on an unsustainable price rise — and yes it could re-set by 10–15% (or maybe more).
5.Q: Will there be a lot of cryptocurrencies?
A: Yes. However, I think we’ll see an ever sharpening distinction between “coins” (stores of value, to be traded as such) and “permission tokens”, which give one the right to participate in an ecosystem to validate a contract, mine a transaction etc. And I think there could be dozens of cryptocurrencies which sustain long term.
6.Q: Are you a blockchain guru?
A: (Laughs) No way! I’m a relative neophyte — even some of the things companies I advise for, such as OmiseGo, are implementing technologies and embracing sophisticated concepts so advanced I struggle to get my head around. But sometimes ignorance can be helpful, because it forces me to ask and help answer really basic questions — who are we building this solution for? What sort of problems can we solve? How much will this cost someone to use?
The challenge is getting to simple answers from very difficult problems. This simplicity of a solution to a complex problem is what I find very attractive about EBCoin — I could just “get it” from the first moment I read the plan and the team shared their vision with me.
7.Q: How does your background in payments help you in this new world of blockchain?
A: Well, certainly I have a good feel for the ecosystem players; merchants, consumers, financial institutions and the “platform” providers.
Secondly, because I have been through a few of these innovation cycles, you begin to identify historical patterns; new technologies are introduced to a market, there is disruption, hype, some settling of dust, then the long hard work of building and implementing commercial grade solutions across an ecosystem initiates.
My experience in payments means I have seen a lot of different phases of development in our industry; fifteen years ago it was “dot com”, then ten years ago it was “mobile”, then it was “app”…now it’s “chain” and “crypto”. You begin to see patterns of sustainable, longer term, secular trends and how to assess and plan for the trajectory of adoption.
8.Q: What has been your experience in Asia? How is the market different than the US?
A: For one thing, duty free shopping and tax refunds are a big deal in Asia — millions of people take advantage of this retailing construct and it is huge, especially with the Japanese, Koreans, Singaporeans, and the Chinese most of all!
Some other thoughts — “Asia” is a fictional location; in reality there are so many distinct operating markets, cultures, and geographies. Keep in mind — there is no single unified economic market in Asia (like the US or EU). There is no unifying language (like most of Latin America is unified with the Spanish language, Brazil excepted). China is its own universe and you might argue that Chinese culture has permeated much of Asia –but then again so has the culture of India, and in certain countries so have various European traditions and cultures.
In terms of FinTech and payments; Asia is vastly more sophisticated in the areas of mobile commerce, social media, and innovation often comes in areas of implementation. The US is far more innovative in terms of underlying, core technologies and provides such tremendous scale in a single market, that a US start up can ramp to global ambitions quickly. Also, the US provides much broader and deeper access to capital and expertise — although we are starting to see that change rapidly in Asia, especially China and India.